Opinion: Waiting for a day when 'first' doesn't matter
Two days ago, Barack Obama officially took up residence in the White House. The historic event has significant meaning to my family, so we sat down and witnessed the first African American being sworn in as president of a country that not long ag...
Two days ago, Barack Obama officially took up residence in the White House. The historic event has significant meaning to my family, so we sat down and witnessed the first African American being sworn in as president of a country that not long ago would have made that same man drink from a different water fountain.
I have heard many recently say they don't understand the hype. I will try to share a few things from my own family and maybe that will shed a little light on why, to us, and so many others, it is so awesome.
My wife, Kari, and I have three wonderful young children -- Brooks, Ashley and A.J. -- but what some of you may not know is that our family is a transracial family. Brooks and A.J. are bi-racial, African American and Caucasian. This presents a list of parenting challenges that we think about every day. Yet our two boys face the greatest challenges.
The real world can be cruel, divisive and downright mean at times. As a society we try to surround ourselves with others that share our beliefs and our culture. For Kari and me, along with our daughter Ashley, who are all Caucasian and living in a predominately white community, it is easy for us to be comfortable with our surroundings.
But what if you are of a different race, color or creed?
Here are just a few things that I have noticed that I find interesting. It is kind of my own little case study on race relations.
First, take color crayons as an example. There is a color called flesh in most boxes and guess what color that is?
Have you ever noticed what color Band-aids are? Again, they are made to blend in with skin color, but what if you are not white? Why is it that in the movies the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats? These are all little basic things that as a white person I am never forced to even consider because to me they seem quite normal. But what about for others who are not white?
My wife and I can go the whole day without anyone noticing us or recognizing us. However, when we go out around town with our boys we have people stop us and say they recognize us from this or from that. This happens quite regularly and no offense is ever taken by us -- after all, people are always nice -- but it does remind us that we are not that recognizable because we are like everyone else. But the boys stand out. Line up 12 white first-graders, along with our son Brooks, and who do you think gets remembered? Who stands out? That has to be a lot of pressure on a small kid, doesn't it?
We try to go about our life as normal but we know that our normal may not be our son's normal (or even Ashley's, since she is a part of this as well). Our sons look African American and therefore will be seen by society as African Americans and we are proud of that. Yet we are conscious of the fact that they will be brought up as white children, heavily dosed in our customs and our heritage. After all, they live in a home with white parents who live in a predominately white community.
Again this is not a complaint; most people would simply say "and what is so wrong with that?" My response is simply, I am not here to argue what is wrong or what is right but to answer a question with another question. Is that good enough? We want our family to celebrate and learn more about other cultures and races.
One of my biggest fears for my boys is that they feel they are caught between cultures, that they feel as though they don't fit in anywhere. We realize it is human nature to see differences. It is quite natural for many folks to want to categorize things and people. It is what we as humans do every day. I am not here to debate that, but I also know society will dictate that they fit into a category.
Barack Obama is bi-racial, and yet society sees him as a black man. It's the same with my boys.
Tuesday was a great day. We got to witness something for the first time in history yet there is one day I am still waiting for, a day I hope and pray that my boys get to see.
It is the day we no longer need to talk about firsts: The first African American head football coach to win a Super Bowl, or the first African American president or the first African American anything. That day will truly be the day history is made.